The fight against voter suppression is heating up around the country as Republicans introduce bills that they say address voter fraud.
Voter Purging: Texas Latest State to Address Alleged Voter Fraud
Although voter purging did not work in Texas two years ago, that does not mean that the Republican Party in the Lone Star State has given up on its efforts to remove alleged noncitizens from the voting rolls.
Two years ago, the Texas GOP threatened to eliminate approximately 60,000 legal voters from the voting rolls.
But mistakes made during that effort stopped the purge from occurring.
Texas State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) said, “It must be done with extreme attention to detail.”
Sen. Bettencourt filed the proposal to launch a new round of voter purges.
The voter purge would use driver’s license information to discover so-called illegal voting.
The Houston Chronicle reported, “In 2019, the Texas secretary of state sent a list based on state driver’s license data to county election officials showing the names of drivers whom state officials believed might be noncitizens who were voting in Texas.
“But a further review revealed that tens of thousands of legal citizens were incorrectly included on that list. Then-Secretary of State David Whitley eventually apologized to state lawmakers, saying the lists should have been reviewed more carefully. The Texas Senate ultimately forced Whitley out of office.”
Harris County, Texas officials refused to send notices that could have potentially purged voters before the 2020 election.
Furthermore, voter advocacy groups have criticized the state’s efforts to purge voters because many believe that the efforts will unfairly target people who may have been noncitizens at the time of receiving their driver’s licenses, but have since been naturalized.
The efforts to purge illegal voters from Texas voter rolls comes as states across the country look to restrict voters in the wake of President Joe Biden’s defeat of former President Donald Trump in 2020.
Former President Trump made false claims that illegal voting and voter fraud led to his defeat to President Biden.
Trump’s false claims of voter fraud led thousands of his supporters to storm the United States Capitol building on Jan. 6 in a deadly and unsuccessful insurrection.
The insurrectionists sought to overturn the election results and some made threats against politicians like former Vice President Mike Pence.
The Houston Chronicle reported, “The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that more than 250 restrictive voting bills have been introduced, prefiled or carried over in 2021 legislative sessions, a more than four-fold increase from a year ago.”
But despite the criticism that came from the 2019 efforts to purge voters, Bettencourt said the state legislature would set up a better process for the Texas Department of Public Safety and the secretary of state in determining those to potentially purge in 2021 and beyond.
Of the officials who oversaw the first mass voter purge, Bettencourt said, “They didn’t understand the data.”
At a Monday press conference in Houston, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that counties like Harris might have encouraged voter fraud, attacking officials after the county saw a record voter turnout because of increased voter opportunities like drive-thru voting and other efforts to make voting easier during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Abbott said, “The integrity of elections in 2020 were questioned right here in Harris County with the mail-in ballot applications to millions of voters, many of whom would not be eligible to vote by mail. Election officials should be working to stop potential mail-in ballot fraud, not facilitate it.”
The Houston Chronicle reported, “More than a dozen election-related bills have been filed in the GOP-controlled Legislature this year. But while Republicans call those measures a way to support ‘election integrity,’ critics say they represent a form of suppression to make it harder for people—particularly minority voters—to cast ballots in a state that has become increasingly competitive for Republicans over the last six years.
“Democrat Joe Biden lost by less than 6 percentage points to Republican Donald Trump in Texas last fall, the best showing by a Democratic presidential candidate in the Lone Star State in decades.”
Despite the claims of voter suppression, many Republicans insist that the bills are meant to ensure voter integrity and increase voter confidence.
Abbott said, “Our objective is very simple, (and) that is to ensure that every eligible voter gets to vote. It’s also to ensure that only eligible votes are the ones that count at the ballot box.”
But protestors outside of the press conference did not buy the governor’s explanation of voter purges.
“It’s an attempt to take away people’s right to vote,” said Houstonian Nan Toole, who attended Monday’s press conference, at an office building along the Energy Corridor.
After Abbott held his press conference, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo held her own press conference, saying that Abbott’s efforts were just a continuation of “the big lie” that Trump promoted to make excuses for his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
Judge Hidalgo said, “So many steps that are being taken under the guise of voter fraud that doesn’t exist on a massive scale. Elected officials should earn their vote through good policy. They shouldn’t hope to win by preventing people from voting.”
The governor said, “What we’ve seen in the past is that election fraud takes place. Have no doubt that it took place here in the state of Texas…Any voter fraud that takes place sews seeds of distrusts in the election process.”
Despite the fact that some form of voter fraud occurs during every election cycle, many experts do not believe that voter fraud occurs at the level necessary to alter the outcome of an election.